Home > Communication, Family, Health, Learning, Parenting, Reflections, Teaching > Giving up on never giving up

Giving up on never giving up

Loopy with tiredness, my five-year-old son insisted he could and would finish his homework. His assignment: to write numbers 1-100.

He’d been stopped up at 79 for several minutes.

“Count out loud, sweetie,” I told him.

“78, 79, 90,” he replied. He meant it, too.

“Try again,” I encouraged him. “Remember it’s 7, 8, 9, not 7, 9, 10.”

“78, 79 … 49?” he asked, flopping around beside me.

“Come on now!”

“78, 79, 81?”

“Okay, hon. We’re done for tonight. You’re too tired to focus on this tonight, but you’ll finish up in no time tomorrow morning.”

He was sobbing into the couch cushions before I could finish speaking.

I waited.

“You’re making me give up!” he howled after the worst of his internal storm had passed.

I beckoned him into my lap. He climbed in and snuggled up against me.

“I’m not making you give up. I’m making you set it aside until you’re really ready to do it. That will save us both time and frustration.”

“But I want to finish now!” he cried.

I sighed. We have had this conversation several times since I gave up on never giving up.

“Please give it until morning. We can talk more about it then.”

With a good night’s rest to fuel him, he wrote the correct number seconds after sitting down today. He’d finished the assignment in less time than he spent floundering yesterday.

I wish I could make him see in a single conversation, single evening or even single year how much time and energy people waste insisting on persevering right now, no matter what.

I’ll have to be patient, though, given how deeply rooted is modern day faith in the merits of never, ever giving up.

I mean, it’s taken me 36 years to figure out it’s better to walk away … and, in some cases, never to return.

Eyes turned toward the bigger picture, not any individual task, see such things more clearly.

Today I hope my son learns sooner than I when to walk away.

I hope you, too, will take a moment to consider what you might feel freer for releasing.

‘Cause there’s a reason bigger than rhythm that Kenny Rogers didn’t sing:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to hold ’em harder
Know when to sit still
Know when to sit still more vigorously

Happy Friday, folks! May today move you one step–not seat, step–closer to knowng when to walk away and knowing when to run.


Also when to take a few minutes to play, or watch your kids play 🙂

  1. February 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

  2. February 20, 2015 at 9:19 am

    I completely agree… even for simple stuff (especially for simple stuff). I couldn’t balance an account at work on Wednesday. I didn’t work late. I went home on time. Thursday morning, I balanced.

    • February 20, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Things go so much more smoothly amd happily! I remember sitting at my desk for hours once trying to solve some little thing. Steam was building internally to the point I was ready to explode. I finally stormed away from my desk and toward the corner market … and found the solution about one minute later, after giving myself permission to walk away. It made me wish I had stepped away hours sooner. I could’ve gotten so much else accomplished! Remembering this helps remind me the benefits of stepping away. 🙂

  3. February 20, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Funny… My teenaged daughter was joking with me this morning but it sounded to me like she was blowing up, so I closed the door between us and went about my business. She opened the door to make sure I knew she was kidding. I explained that it didn’t feel like she was kidding, that I had felt stung. She (kind of) blew up at that and when I tried to explain, she left the area.

    Later, I heard her expressing her frustration at the situation to her dad. So I walked up to explain. I thought I’d compare to a recent situation she had with friends where she took them saying “We don’t want you to sit with us” very seriously when they were actually kidding. I thought that if she could see that it felt real to her when they were actually kidding, she’d be able to see how I might have misinterpreted her kidding. Well… it went downhill quickly, with her insisting the situations were different because she knows what those friends sound like when they are kidding and they were not kidding. I was frustrated that she couldn’t see how the situations were the same and tried to get her to see.

    Finally, I chose to walk away before I blew up. She stepped out after me and yelled, “Ok, fine! Walk away! That solves everything!” By then, I was close to my husband who whispered, “Actually, it does. Don’t go back. Just walk away.”

    Different situation in the details than yours, but my moment this morning made your story resonate with me. It really is better to walk away sometimes. You don’t have to win every argument, even if you are right. You don’t have to finish homework, even if it’s due the next day. Sometimes, you just have to stop. I’m with you – I hope my kids learn this lesson younger than I am, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • February 20, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Gah! That’s especially tough in heated exchanges, but also so much the better because it impacts not only self but other.

      I used to want to win at all costs. Now I try thinking of all the other things I would rather do with that time and energy, and am able to make the wiser choice. (Usually! *cough*)

  4. February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Nooooo!!!! How could you leave us hanging like that not tell us the right number that comes after 79!?

  5. February 20, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Many times our intuition can’t kick in till we’re rested and calm. Its a good lesson to teach children to walk away when emotions get too high. Good things happen when we’re calm.

    • February 20, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Hear, hear! I have said many things I regret in heated moments, but never once solved anything more quickly or effectively trying to … resolve … while hotheaded.

  6. February 20, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Just had to share this video with you – or actually with your son … It was in my email queue today and was so relevant to the theme of “never give up”.

    I don’t know the park, but I recognize the Drakensberg Mountains and the ranger’s accent – it’s in South Africa somewhere. Another little FYI – honey badgers are *fantastically* aggressive – much more so than the US or UK brand of badger – so it was interesting to see that this little guy apparently has a reasonably friendly relationship with the humans in his life.

    I hope they eventually gave up and let him have his freedom! His perseverance certainly should have been rewarded!

    • February 20, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      I look forward to watching this when I get my cafe time tomorrow! I’d watch it tonight if this computer’s volume worked. *shake fist*

  7. February 20, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I admit I’m pretty stubborn and sometimes will mess around with something a lot longer than is probably healthy if I’m trying to figure it out. But I eventually get to a point where I’m like, “Eff this, I’ll come back to it later.” I just get so frustrated I have to walk away.

    • February 20, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      I used to be like that. I noticed it took me forever to come down from that terrible peak, in addition to taking me longer to solve things. I don’t always remember to walk away now, but I’m more likely … and my baseline stress level is much, much lower. (I highly recommend it!)

      • February 20, 2015 at 9:09 pm

        I’ll try to keep it in mind. I definitely don’t need any more stress than I already have, but my stubborness is, well, stubborn.

  8. February 20, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Great reminder, Deb. I love that picture of L’il D and Mini Me with the identical, backside postures.

    • February 20, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      I was thrilled when they started letting J play with D a few weeks back. Getting to witness this … oh, but it is good for the soul!

  9. February 20, 2015 at 11:59 am

    He sounds like my son! We have many of the same battles. I know what things I have to let go of and never come back for!

    • February 20, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      😀 I mostly know. I’m at maybe … 85%? 90%? Much better than my 15-20% from just a few years ago, for sure.

  10. February 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I learned that lesson with sewing. Sometimes you have to take a break after unsewing and re-sewing the same seam several times.

    • March 8, 2015 at 5:54 am

      I briefly took up knitting. That was a really good lesson for me in knowing when to take a break!

      (I’d actually like to pick it up again, but that will depend on my instructor’s patience with “Two Left Hands Deb.”)

  11. February 20, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Such a sweet and important story. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • March 8, 2015 at 5:56 am

      Thank you for reading! This continues to be a daily conversation here, so I’m glad I captured it here. Someday I’d love to revisit it with Li’l D … who might hopefully someday revisit it with his own little ones. I know I’m getting ahead of myself there, but I sure do love the thought. ♥

  12. February 21, 2015 at 4:20 am

    First, that is such a wonderful lesson. I wish I had read it yesterday morning instead of today. Maybe it would have sunk in and I wouldn’t have spent the day trying to fix something that clearly wasn’t going to go my way…technology, meh!

    I love love love the picture of your two sons. Do you wonder how fast they grow? I do.

    • March 8, 2015 at 6:00 am

      I wonder every day how fast they grow! Some hours, even, I’m able to see Littler J acquire some new skill he didn’t have when he awakened, which is mind-boggling. Just yesterday, it seemed, he did–outwardly–little more than sleep, poop and follow me with his eyes. Now he’s a tiny person with opinions (which he voices with emotion, if not comprehensible words) and objectives. Sometimes I accidentally call him D, forgetting that five whole years have passed since Li’l D was this size, and that there’s a whole new person who’s my joyous responsibility.

      As for these discussions with Li’l D, they benefit me, too. When I’m beating my head against something I WANT TO FIX RIGHT NOW, I remember talking with Li’l D … and also that it’s not only OK but good for me to walk away for a little while.

      Love you.

  13. February 22, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    What a good lesson to teach him …go mama go!

    • March 8, 2015 at 6:02 am

      Thank you for saying that! I was talking to a girlfriend a couple of days ago. She said a few “rockin’ job!” compliments, and it was so uplifting. There’s so much “do this, not this” and “you should have done this” that it makes hearing “what you did was great” feel really uplifting. I’m grateful now every time someone takes a moment to say something kind like this.

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